Doctor Science Knows

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Contextualizing Amanda Marcotte

For quite a while now I've been a regular reader and commenter at Pandagon and a sporadic reader at Shakespeare's Sister. I was very pleased and impressed when Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan were hired by the Edwards campaign, disgusted by the outcry against them from Bill Donohue and Michelle Malkin and their hordes, and saddened though not surprised when the bloggers had to quit.

[if you've been under an e-rock and don't know what I'm talking about, here is Amanda's description of what went down, and here is Melissa's.]

During the kerfuffle/blogswarm/15 minutes of fame, I didn't post here but did a certain amount of commenting at other blogs, including Orcinus (also here), Obsidian Wings, and Pandagon itself. Over the next few days I'm going to try to post re-worked versions of various of my comments here.

One of the points that kept coming up was needing to put Amanda's remakrs in context. The particular remark that got a lot of people upset was:

Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?

A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.

Here is the original context.

In brief: Marcotte was writing about official Catholic "pre-Cana" (=pre-marital) teaching on sex & contraception, and the misinformation, misdirection, lies, & misogyny therein. The infamous Q&A
is in the style of the questions & answers found in standard Catholic Catechisms. These catechistic exchanges very often teach standard or dogmatic answers to hypothetical questions.

The core of what Amanda was saying is IMHO completely correct. People who try to discourage the use of any effective contraception are not "pro-life", they are anti-sex and anti-woman. If Catholicism did not exist, such people would still be misogynists, but they'd have to cloak it in a different religion.

In other words, she was saying that Catholicism is *not* the source of all misogyny -- she is certainly not anti-Catholic by feminist standards, nor by atheist standards. She is not at all fond of the current Catholic hierarchy, but I know a lot of practicing Catholics who aren't, either. A number of the other Pandagon posters and commenters are practicing Catholics, and they don't find Amanda's saltier language particularly offensive. She mocks doctrine and assholes, but not well-meaning people.

Now, about that Holy Spirit.

Speaking as a former Catholic schoolgirl, one characteristic of Catholics as compared to the mass of American Protestants is often a much earthier and less glossily reverent approach to the Incarnation [more detail about this on next rock]. Bill Donohue claimed to be shocked, *shocked* that anyone could possibly talk about the Holy Spirit that way, but he knows how Catholics talk when they think the priest isn't listening (and sometimes when he is), and Amanda is just gesturing in the direction of the iceberg. I don't know if she was raised Catholic, but she went to a Catholic college and IMHO she has a right to talk the talk.

And even if you think that non-believers don't have the right to make obvious (and ancient) jokes about matters of sincere religious belief, I agree with Amanda that it is much worse to use sincere religious belief to spread harmful lies. In particular, no religion deserves respect for misogyny, and the best way to combat inappropriate respect is mockery.

Coincidentally (though I would be proud to share her brain), Amanda posted this morning on TPMCafe about criticizing religions that have offensive beliefs.

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